[@OKau] How can we fund important Open Source projects?

Rosie Williams BudgetAus at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 23 21:21:51 UTC 2015


I apologise in advance if I am asking difficult questions but I have to make decisions about whether or not to continue my own projects which is why I'm interested in this thread, what defines a project as successful and how financial sustainability is achieved- particularly in projects that contribute to transparency given that has been my area of interest to date.

Due to Steven mentioning that he can't afford to fund developers for the product he installs, I assumed CKAN relied on volunteer developers but according to the CKAN site 'A full-time professional development team at the Open Knowledge Foundation maintains CKAN and can provide full support and hosting with SLAs. ' However CKAN code also appears to be free to use so it is interesting to wonder where the money is coming from to build it and whether CKAN owes it's existence to grants or is in some way self-sustaining. I'm having trouble determining such things with the information provided by OKFN as the financials do not go into that kind of detail.

The OKFN financials list a number of sources of income so I guess that together with these donations & consultancy fees, volunteers also contribute to the worth of the projects listed in the annual report though the extent of that contribution does not appear to be measured or collated in the reports.

Paul, you mention earlier in the thread that OKFN projects rely on public use and interest to continue (as opposed to the contribution of volunteer labour). Which data does the OKFN rely on to measure public use and interest and is that publicly available?  With a standard business it is a bit easier because you have customer numbers as one measure of interest but the OKFN does not rely on user pays so I'm curious to know what data forms the basis of the decisions taken.

Rosie Williams BA (Sociology)
 NoFibs.com.au<http://nofibs.com.au> - Open Data Reporter | OpenAus<https://openaus.net.au> - Founder and Developer

From: okfn-au <okfn-au-bounces at lists.okfn.org> on behalf of Paul Walsh <paulywalsh at gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, 12 November 2015 6:18 PM
To: Open Knowledge discussion list for Australia.
Subject: Re: [@OKau] How can we fund important Open Source projects?

Hi Rosie,

I think the question of how open source projects can become self-sustaining is a large area of research and diving in, you’ll find that there is no single answer, as "open source project” is a signifier for a huge range of efforts with diversity in motivation, funding, corporate backing, and so on.

Stats on contribution to any OKI open source projects can be found using GitHub’s APIs for repository activity - all our code is there. Although, I think that your interest is less in “open source projects” and more in “open data projects that use (and build) open source software to achieve social goals”, in which case I’m not sure that will help greatly.

There are around 20 paid staff at OKI, and a range of additional contractors on some projects - usually for development.

"Reliance" on volunteers is something that is hard to measure and reason about. Reliance, as a term, suggests to me that you want to understand if a project lives or dies based on volunteer contribution alone. In general, the answer to that is no.



On 12 Nov 2015, at 12:28 AM, Rosie Williams <BudgetAus at hotmail.com<mailto:BudgetAus at hotmail.com>> wrote:

Hi and thanks for the comments.

The conclusion I've come to wrt to discussion of the more general question of how important open source projects can become self-sustaining  (OKFN projects among them) is that there's limited scope for that discussion because there doesn't seem to be easily accessible data to inform it.

The OKFN seems to be making ends meet but how that relates to specific projects is unclear.

Having stats on the number of paid staff, even an estimate of the number of volunteers working on each project, the money coming in to fund each project and where it is coming from would be useful and what I would expect to see in an annual report. I also think it would be useful to know who the visitors to each project/site are so evaluations can be made about engagement to learn from what works or does not. Perhaps the reliance on volunteers prohibits expectations of gathering & reporting this kind of data.

I will probably end up blogging about this to have something more comprehensive to pass to the appropriate person.

Rosie Williams BA (Sociology)
 NoFibs.com.au<http://nofibs.com.au/> - Open Data Reporter | OpenAus<https://openaus.net.au/> - Founder and Developer

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